Sunday, 13 January 2008

Stealth Marketing: The art of deception

It is obvious to the naked eye, and quite offensive to one’s moral conscience and common sense, that nowadays marketing practices tend to be reduced to a black art of stealth, in an attempt to deceive potential customers and lure them into buying often unneeded, useless, or even harmful products. 

The psychological deception of fellow human beings by various advertising tricks has become the object of modern science of marketing, a science that has proven to be one of the most popular fields of study in universities and colleges during the last decades. Unfortunately, humans are considered by many entrepreneurs simply as consuming robots…

Once upon a time people used to exchange goods they produced for different commodities they needed. Later they invented money, which was supposed to enable them to trade more fairly and easily with each other. And, indeed, money was an important invention for our civilization. Soon, however, people chose money to be their god and,...
in the process of a vicious antagonism for money and power, they started worshipping the bloodthirsty Mammon passionately, even by offering human sacrifices to him for the sake of profit!

Degenerate and thus bewildered people, forgetting the brotherhood of all men, have entered into a vicious race of aggressively accumulating money they don’t need, at any moral cost, thus killing the humanity of their own soul and depriving themselves of the joy only one with a loving heart can experience.

There is nothing immoral with exchanging goods for money and, within the right perspective, there would be nothing wrong with making known, i.e. with truthful advertising of new products, so that the selling and buying may be facilitated. But the real problem starts when the covert aim is to give false hopes as regards to the efficacy of one’s product and hypnotize people, thereby making them customers even against their own free will.

When the basic intention of the seller is not to fill some real need of fellow humans with his/her products but to pile up money, then it is easy for anyone to slip into a corrupted way of marketing and advertising. It is all a matter of priorities. And because man’s priority is wealth and more wealth, it is unavoidable that the methods and the tools of marketing and advertising would focus at deceiving potential buyers.

Exchanging ‘goods’ for money, any ‘goods’ whatsoever, even ‘goods’ with flesh and blood in the form of adult or child prostitution, is the most popular, but ultra deceptive and vitality-sapping sport of our materialistic culture. Alas, I am afraid there is no willingness for governments to place some strict universal ethics for individuals, firms, and organizations to be bound by - laws that would stop this deceitful game of marketing and halt sellers from surreptitiously reaching consumers and sucking them into suggestion of buying unnecessary products. It is one thing to manufacture ‘goods’ - and this is quite legitimate provided that the ‘goods’ are useful - and it is a completely different thing to set up a subtle industry that ‘manufactures’ consumers through deceitful marketing and advertising. The latter is something of which we should all be sorry and ashamed of.

The subtlest and seemingly most innocent trick of psychological deception in marketing is the manner of pricing one’s products. This has gone so far as to look ridiculous and childish. It appears that the marketing managers consider themselves very intelligent and us, consumers, very stupid. How else could one explain this “nine-mania” in pricing lists? For the sake of this article I visited several Internet sites where different sellers advertise their ‘goods’. First I entered a site with health products. I thought, “Here, at least, I should find healthy pricing.” 

Let’s have a look at some random prices found there: ‘Glucosamine Sulphate’, price: £19.99 / ‘Super Green tea’, price £9.99 / ‘Coenzyme Q10’, price £19.99 / ‘Natural Evening Primrose Oil’, price: £29.99, and so on, and so forth. Then I looked up at some calendars for the New Year. This is what I found at 2008 Wall Calendar priced at $18.99, the next calendar selling at $12.99, another one priced at $39.99, etc., etc. Afterwards I looked up at more expensive stuff. The pricing policy was just the same. I found a 3- Console Playstation at the price of £279.99, a digital camera at $103.99, a 60 inch LCD TV priced at $999.99, and then I screamed out, “Oh, holy cow!
Enough of those elusive nines! Give us a break, please; put some zeroes after the decimal point, at least”!

I confess to you, I am sick and tired of those nines! And whenever I can have my way, I forbid publishers of my books to give them a price ending in nine. The hilarious thing is that many of my fellow Greeks selling their products in the street fruit and vegetable market have adopted this nine-mania, and have taken the psychological deception even a step further!

One often sees hand-written prices seemingly ending in two zeros after the decimal point, but when you are about to pay you are told that those zeros were actually nines! The only difference from proper nines is that these ones have a tiny, almost invisible, tail, in order for the nine to look like zero! In other words, you end up paying a euro more per kilo than what you originally thought.

Another way of popular marketing deception, which is widely practiced in the industry of cosmetics, is the use of extra large and luxurious paper boxes to pack small items. I have the impression that in most cases the outer box and the jar cost more than the actual cosmetic product that is inside! What a waste of money for something destined to be thrown into the bin!

But all this deceptive and covert marketing is carefully designed for attracting new customers. The potential buyer, impressed by the size and the style of the decorative cardboard outer box, hardly bothers to read the information about the small amount of facial cream or cologne that is contained in the often ornamental jar within. No wonder cosmetics are ever so expensive… Of course, it is all part and parcel of the illusive marketing game that has become the trademark of our present day civilization. Honest and economical packaging is not in the agenda.

Employing celebrities or famous people in order to promote various products is another illusive way of luring potential customers. However, embedding commercial messages in popular music is a most covert and hence utterly condemnable practice of stealth marketing. Then come the pestering members of notorious MLM/Pyramid schemes or rather scams. About the latter, much has been written and I am not going to expand on it. I shall only relate to you something entertaining that I have read on this subject.

The director of a Christian “non-denominational” ministry has uploaded on the Internet a very good article about the “Multi-Level Marketing Deception”, which he calls, “Multi-level manipulation”.

In that article he warns Christians to abstain from such deceitful practices, lest they lose their ‘salvation’ and end up in hell! He said, “Jesus gave us an example to follow in conducting ourselves with other people. Jesus never used people for the purpose of making money. Neither did the Apostle Paul, who God used to write nearly three-quarters of the New Testament.” This is fair enough.

However, the good minister, just as every other Church minister of any Christian denomination, does use people for making money! At the end of his message, he invites people to donate money to his ministry in order for him to be able to continue to sell heavenly insurances to lost sheep!
Here are his own words, so very typical of Christian preachers: “We ask each person reading this to please ask God on an on-going basis if He would have you sow a financial gift to this evangelistic outreach of His - trust that He will clearly communicate His will to you in the matter - then simply be obedient.” And the minister continues: “For convenience, you can simply click on the secure Pay Pal donate button below…” Regrettably, this minister spoiled his really good message by appealing for money!

Did I hear you saying something? Did someone remark that exploiting people’s most weak spot is predatoriness? Of course there are all kinds of deceitful marketing schemes available, even for those who claim to be ministers of God… And what could be more desirable for anyone than insurance for eternal and blissful life? Nothing, for sure!

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